Thursday, November 15, 2018

Grocery Shopping Tips from One Who Asserts that Feeding Teenage Boys on the Somewhat Cheap Is Not Completely Impossible

(This is a mere portion of today's grocery haul)

(To be fair, some of this stuff is for Thanksgiving)

(I'm not sure how that's fair but I'm going with it)


Greetings, valued loyalists! If we've learned one thing from me taking up the practice of blogging every day, it's that my mind works much like a pinball machine with regard to topics. Today I'm late to the blogging due to the grocery shopping I did earlier, so I'm going to write about why grocery shopping can take up a huge part of my day.

The three top reasons, of course, are certain young men in my household at the ages of seventeen, fifteen, and twelve. The twelve-year-old recently went from shorter than me to taller than me within a couple of months. The others did the same around the time they were each thirteen, and of course they've continued to get taller ever since. 

As a person who doesn't want to spend all of the money on groceries, I've developed some methods to avoid that. Here they are!

If you want to be thorough, the way to start with your grocery budget is to do what you usually do for a month, but write down what you did. Shop as always, and then add up the receipts to see how much you spent. If you can totally afford that amount and you're not in any kind of debt, you're done with this project and I say to you: good day. However, if you think you'd rather have some of that grocery money for other things, read on.

Once you know what you spent last month, ease into budgeting by reducing that amount by 10%. If you're really eager, or the spending was super high, try 20%, but don't reduce it by any more than that this time. Try it out at the new level for a month or two and see how it goes. Being too intense about it too suddenly might make you freak out and never want to budget again. 

Once you've decided on the new grocery budget, divide it up so that you have a weekly amount instead of trying to think in terms of a whole month's worth of groceries. Since nearly all the months have more than 28 days, I like to divide my monthly budget by five, so that I might end up with extra money due to the short, fifth "week," but it's fine to divide it by four and just expect that the last "week" will be longer than seven days. 

The next step is to make a shopping list before going to the store, every time. Ideally, you only go to the grocery store once a week, maximum. Some people go less frequently than that, but I'm here to tell you about my system. I like to do a combination of meal-planning and using a rebate app on my phone. 

I'm about to throw a referral link at you, but don't worry, this post is not sponsored. Here's the way the Ibotta app works. If you sign up, and use the app, you can get cash back on purchases you make in the regular stores where you ordinarily shop, and also a cash bonus for using the app the first time. If you sign up through my referral link, then when you get a bonus the first time, I also get a bonus. Free money for things you were going to buy anyway. You will also be on my team in this scenario, which means that we can both get to additional bonuses faster. If you want to be a lone wolf and sign up without my link, that's okay! But I'll appreciate having you on my team if that's what you decide to do.

I use Ibotta by looking at the rebate deals for the store where I'm planning to shop. If there's a deal on anything I can use, I click to activate the deal, and put the item on my grocery list. Then I start to figure out which meals to make on which days, with the food I already have plus the things I'm buying. If I need any additional ingredients, I add those to the list. Knowing what I'll cook each day helps me to avoid buying too many random things when I'm at the store.

I do allow myself to look for sales when I'm at the store, though. If I see things I tend to use on sale, and I can easily keep them in the pantry or freezer, I'm willing to consider buying them to incorporate into the next week's meal-planning. With teenage boys, it's extremely helpful to be able to make a large batch of microwavable food to keep in the freezer. I've made sandwiches, breakfast burritos, waffles, and similar foods to freeze, when the right ingredients have been on sale. Anything that's typically sold in the freezer section of a grocery store is something you can make and freeze for yourself; planning ahead to do that can save you a lot of money.

I'm the most proud of the breakfast burritos. Whenever I cook ground turkey for tacos, I'll make extra. Then with whatever's left after the meal, I add some refried beans, scrambled eggs, and cheese, wrap it up in a bunch of tortillas, and freeze the burritos to be microwaved later. They are extremely tasty on their own, or with salsa and sour cream on top, and they keep ravenous bellies full.

The idea with this strategy is to focus on buying things on sale and get multiples of any sale items you: a) can afford within your budget, b) will definitely use, and c) can store for a while, so that you stock up and have supplies to use later. If your budget is extremely tight, don't worry about buying multiples. Just hit those sales hard and use your meal-planning to avoid wasting any food.

I've learned a lot of this from watching frugal lifestyle channels on YouTube, such as Pennies into Pearls. If you want to know more about saving money on groceries and other things, go forth and check it out!


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